Shane the Gamer’s Australian editor, Darren Price, switches on the Xbox One, puts on his headset and gets wireless for sound. I don’t yet consider myself pipe and slippers enough to actively prefer a headset over a decent home theatre system.
But there are times when loud gaming noise isn’t appreciated by others in the household – “Will you turn that noise down?”
We’ve all been there.
If domestic circumstances are going you force you to switch your gaming audio from your Dolby 5.1 or higher home theatre system to a headset, you are going to need something special.
I’ve been using my Modern Warfare 3 branded Turtle Beach Earforce Foxtrot headset for years. Apart from the kilometre of cabling required to connect them to the Xbox 360, I love ‘em. They’re perfect for those times when you need some volume without upsetting anyone.
Seriously, though, they do come with so many wires. First there’s the USB connection, then there’s the audio out connectors, the little wire connecting the volume control to the controller and finally the wire connecting the whole lot to the actual headset itself. It all looks a right mess.
The thought of swapping that old headset and associated cabling with another of the wireless variety was quite an exciting proposition.
Since the Xbox One launch, headset manufacturers such as Turtle Beach have been waiting for Microsoft to pull their fingers out and release their Wireless Headset Adapter for the new console. They managed to do so just in time for the release of the long awaited Titanfall last month. This little dongle, which fits on the Xbox One controller, creates the interface that gets the audio signal from the Xbox One to the headset.
Finally, Xbox One owners could say goodbye to those bloody wires.
Turtle Beach’s Australian distributor, QVS, sent over a couple of their new Xbox One wireless Earforce headsets for me to try out.
First there’s the entry level XO Four.
As you’d expect from Turtle Beach the headset comes neatly packaged in an almost presentation quality box. Removing the sleeve reveals the familiar Turtle Beach logo embossed on the top of the lid.
On top of the open package is a little box containing the quick start instructions, warranty information and a Turtle Beach sticker. You also can’t miss the note advising you that you are going to need an update in order to use the device (more on that later).
Above the paperwork is a box containing the Xbox One Wireless Adapter. This is the piece that we’ve been waiting for, the little black bit of plastic that is going to allow us to say goodbye to all those wires.
The package comes complete with a USB cable which is required in order to update the Xbox One controller with the Wireless Adapter driver.
The headset itself is in two pieces requiring the semi-flexible detachable microphone to be carefully slotted into place.
Even the entry-level XO Four has a nice leather-look cushion around the top of the headset that allows it to rest comfortably on your head.
The speaker cups are finished with a fabric weave ensuring a snug fit over your ears. There’s no denying, with the XO series’ green styling the XO Four headset looks the business.
Now it’s time to take a look at the XO Four’s big brother, Turtle Beach’s premium Xbox One wireless headset, the Earforce XO Seven.
As you’d expect for Turtle Beach’s flagship Xbox One headset, the kit is nicely presented to you when you first open the magnetically sealed box.
The same as its little brother, the XO Seven comes with everything that you need, including wireless adapter, the card warning about that console update and the USB cable required for the controller update. Again the mic comes detached and needs to be connected.
The XOSeven comes with two cable connector, one for the Xbox One Wireless Adapter and the other for connecting to a mobile device. The only real difference is the way the cable leaves the plug, the mobile cable having in coming straight out and the wireless adapter cable coming out at a 90⁰ angle. All the headset cabling has a nice premium black and green woven finish.
The XO Seven headsets are a bit chunkier than the XO Four and feel a bit more robust, especially when making adjustments.
The actual speak cups are finishes in a very comfortable leather-style material that does a very good job of blocking out external sounds.
The detachable mic is very flexable with a thin stalk. The embossed metal and foam gives it a very classy look.
The speaker plates are removable and can be replaced with custom replacements purchased from the Turtle Beach website.
Overall Turtle Beach’s Earforce XO Seven looks and feels every bit the premium headset that you’d expect.
Both the XO Four and the XO Seven deliver on look and feel according to their relative price points. Turtle Beach have gone out of there way to ensure that their products are style, packaged and presented it such a way to make you feel that you have purchased something of value.
As I mentioned previously, the headsets’ wireless functionality comes courtesy of a supplied Microsoft Wireless Headset Adapter, which needs to be clicked onto your controller. Before the headset can be used, the actually Xbox One controller needs to be updated.
The controller update is included with the recent Xbox One update. The console update must be applied before plugging the adapter and the headset into the controller.
With the Xbox One updated. The Wireless Headset Adapter can be clipped into the Xbox One controller.
The actual headset itself it then connected to the adapter. As soon as the headset is plugged into the adapter the Xbox One should tell you to update the controller. In order to do this the controller needs to be connected to the Xbox One via the USB cable included with the XO headsets and follow the screen prompts.
It didn’t work for me. Apparently removing the batteries can solve this problem most of the time.
It turned out to be a faulty Microsoft Wireless Adapter. Fortunately I had a spare so I just swapped it over and connected the headset. The Xbox One knew what was happening straight away and proceeded to install the controller update. No need to pull out batteries or anything like that.
With the controller updated it was problem solved, or so I thought.
Several times during my initial testing of both the XO Four and the XO Seven, whilst playing Titanfall, the sound cut out. A few times the sound cut out and the controller disconnected from the console leaving my Titan sitting there like a dead duck.
Other games yielded similar results. This was a deal breaker.
I checked both headsets on my Samsung tablet and the PS Vita and they worked fine. A quick scour of the internet and it seemed, unsurprisingly, that the finger of blame pointed to Microsoft and an issue with their wireless adapter.
It seems that Microsoft rushed the wireless adapter firmware out the door in time for the Titanfall launch. Turtle Beach, nevertheless should shoulder some of the blame; after all, they are the ones marketing the headsets for the Xbox One, obviously without checking that they actually work properly.
On 14 April, a month after release Microsoft patched the Xbox One with an update that included improvements wireless headset functionality. I’m pleased to report that since updating my controllers with the new patch I’ve not experienced any problems with the sound cutting out or the controller disconnecting.
With the headsets now working properly with the Microsoft Wireless Adaptor I was finally able to test them on the Xbox One.
Over the last month I’ve been using the headsets with my portable devices. I tried them with my Samsung tablet as I streamed the movie Gravity via Flixter. The sound quality from both headsets was superb. I also used the headsets with my PlayStation Vita as I played the PS4 game inFAMOUS Second Son via remote play, again they both performed superbly.
It’s worth pointing out that, whilst I’m not audiophile I consider myself to have a fairly good hearing, I couldn’t really discern any difference in sound quality between the XO Four and the XO Seven. The XO Seven did a slightly better job of insulating sound. But other than that, I’d say that they both have the same speakers and provide the same in-game user experience.
I’m a big fan of bass and so I’m never going to find a headset that’s going to really do it for me. That being said, my old Sennhiesser headphones easily beat both the XO Four and the XO Seven when it comes to low frequency output.
Whilst it’d take a lot for me to take a headset over a home theatre system, both the XO Four and the XO Seven produce a very crisp sound, even at a low volume. You don’t tend to get this from a home theatre system until you’ve got enough volume to drown out all the background noise and fill your room with sound.
In FIFA 14, the crowd noises came alive without the need to turn the volume up. Again, with Forza 5 I could hear every engine note without the need to have the engine sounds rattling through my brain.
Whilst the static and other sound issues were sorted out using the headsets on the Xbox One, I still noticed a slight AC-style hum coming out of the speakers during quite moments. This is another issue that I’d put down to the Xbox One Wireless Adapter rather than the actually Turtle Beach headsets. When I tried the headsets with my mobile devices the speakers sounded clean with not a hint of the hum I get on the Xbox One.
What was weird was not being able to hear my own voice when chatting; the speaker cups do such a good job of insulating your voice from your ears. They could really do with mic monitoring; something that I believe is an Xbox One issue and thus in Microsoft’s hands right now.
It’s worth noting that these wireless headsets are not really wireless. Don’t get me wrong they are a marked improvement over the miles of cable I have to wrestle with when I use my Turtle Beach Foxtrot headset on the Xbox 360, but you still have a cable running between the controller and your ears. Is it really too much to ask for an independently powered headset that wirelessly communicates with the wireless adapter?
Apart from wanting to play games without everybody else having to listen to the noise I’m not sure where these wireless gaming headsets sit. As great as they are, the XO Four and especially the XO Seven don’t really convince me that premium gaming headsets are an essential purchase.
If you are in the lounge, I think that you are still better off using your home theatre, especially if you are playing competitive multiplayer- if only for the direction sound advantage. The only time I can see a wireless headset being a good everyday solution is if you are playing in your room or study, but even then a good set of desktop speakers and a subwoofer would probably do the job better.
I walked away from this experience with the same view that I have of wireless keyboards and mice; nice idea, very convenient for casual use, not so sure I’d want to use them instead of the home theatre system.
But, at the end of the day if you are in the market for a decent headset for your Xbox One both the XO headsets do their job and do it well. The XO Four is a bit cheap-looking compared to the luxury styling of the XO Seven, but that’s to be expected.
They both sound great, though, if lacking a bit of bass (but I’m used to a subwoofer vibrating the floorboards). They are both a snug fit that stays comfortable even with extended use. Post-patch they both worked very well with the Xbox One and even better with my mobile devices.
Whilst the XO Four with do the job for you, if you have the extra cash the XO Seven, with its more robust and stylish design and better sound insulation, is probably your best bet.
* At the beginning of March 2014, shanethegamer.com was supplied with Turtle Beach Earforce XO Four and XO Seven Xbox One wireless headsets for review. Due to a technical issue with the Microsoft Wireless Adapter, which affected the performance of the headsets, we held back on publishing the review. The recent Xbox One patch on 14th April 2014 fixed the issue allowing us to finally publish this feature article.